Portal:Mathematics

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Mathematics is the study of numbers, quantity, space, pattern, structure, and change. Mathematics is used throughout the world as an essential tool in many fields, including natural science, engineering, medicine, and the social sciences. Applied mathematics, the branch of mathematics concerned with application of mathematical knowledge to other fields, inspires and makes use of new mathematical discoveries and sometimes leads to the development of entirely new mathematical disciplines, such as statistics and game theory. Mathematicians also engage in pure mathematics, or mathematics for its own sake, without having any application in mind. There is no clear line separating pure and applied mathematics, and practical applications for what began as pure mathematics are often discovered.

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Dodecahedron.jpg
Dodecahedron
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A Platonic solid is a convex regular polyhedron. These are the three-dimensional analogs of the convex regular polygons. There are precisely five such figures (shown on the left). The name of each figure is derived from the number of its faces: respectively 4, 6, 8, 12 and 20. They are unique in that the sides, edges and angles are all congruent.

Due to their aesthetic beauty and symmetry, the Platonic solids have been a favorite subject of geometers for thousands of years. They are named after the ancient Greek philosopher Plato who claimed the classical elements were constructed from the regular solids.

The Platonic solids have been known since antiquity. The five solids were certainly known to the ancient Greeks and there is evidence that these figures were known long before then. The neolithic people of Scotland constructed stone models of all five solids at least 1000 years before Plato.

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animation showing a roughly star-shaped graph being traced out as a smaller circle rolls around inside of a larger circle

A hypotrochoid is a curve traced out by a point "attached" to a smaller circle rolling around inside a fixed larger circle. In this example, the hypotrochoid is the red curve that is traced out by the red point 5 units from the center of the black circle of radius 3 as it rolls around inside the blue circle of radius 5. A special case is a hypotrochoid with the inner circle exactly one-half the radius of the outer circle, resulting in an ellipse (see an animation showing this). Mathematical analysis of closely-related curves called hypocycloids lead to special Lie groups. Both hypotrochoids and epitrochoids (where the moving circle rolls around on the outside of the fixed circle) can be created using the Spirograph drawing toy. These curves have applications in the "real world" in epicyclic and hypocycloidal gearing, which were used in World War II in the construction of portable radar gear and may be used today in 3D printing.

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General Foundations Number theory Discrete mathematics
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